S1, E2 – Is Child Abuse in Rural America Worse Than Ever?

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On this episode we wanted to share a cool experience we recently had in our psychology class. We were visited by the lovely Mrs. Karen Hahn a social worker from Psychology Specialists in Canton, IL. Karen’s visit is definitely consistent with our objective to examine the social problems we face in our own context of rural America; specifically these 16 counties in western IL referred to by many as Forgottonia. In fact if we want firsthand insights of what exactly the issues are and what it takes to overcome them, I’m not sure there’s anybody better to talk to then a social worker like Karen.  

Part 1 – Karen’s Story (0 – 4 min)

Karen Hahn is a licensed clinical social worker at Psychology Specialists in Canton, IL. She grew up on a farm and was a good student throughout school. She wanted to be an accountant because they made money. She attended Truman State University to get a business degree, but discovered she had a passion for sociology. About 1.5 years later, she changed her major–despite her father’s protest– and got a degree in child and family health. From there she moved to Canton and worked at a daycare, with runaways, in the foster system, the college, and the community mental health system; all these places with a social service degree. Later she discovered a passion for working with hospice patients.

This past January her department was unfortunately closed due to state funds after she worked there for 9.5 years. From here, Karen got another licensure to be able to do private practice.  

Part 2 – How to be a Social Worker (4 min – 7 min)

There is a bachelor’s level degree that can get you entry level jobs at around $15-$17 an hour. These are likely salary jobs where although you’re supposed to work 40 hour per week jobs, it’s really ends up being 60 hours a week. Paperwork is a constant demand on this job. Foster care, probation, hospitals, DCFS, mental health, and rehabilitation programs are some options in the world of social work.

Karen decided to go into social work and not professional counseling because she has a passion for working with elderly and disabled populations. She also has experience working with severely and persistently mentally ill patients; writing mental health evaluations for people who are suicidal and schizophrenic. (She shares a story about a patient who was given marijuana by his mother as a toddler).  

Part 3 – Spanking & Demographics of Fulton County (7 min –  13:00)

Online the top 3 scholarly articles are “Evidence Favoring the Use of Spanking,“The Great Spanking Debate” and “Research on Spanking: It’s Bad For Every Kid.”   So even researchers are mixed! But how does this pertain to Fulton County? Let’s review some info about our county.

Fulton County is its own creature. We’re one of the biggest counties in the state and one of the poorest as well. It’s one of the fastest turnaround counties in regards to getting support for medicaid. It’s a little easier to get medicaid and housing assistance here as opposed to in Cook County (could take months or years).

95% of our county is white and just 3.6% is black; a number that actually increased because of the IL State Correctional facility in Canton, IL (a higher population of minorities exists and since visiting hours are Mon-Fri, many families move to the area to be with loved ones staying at the correctional facility).

The educational level in our county is also surprising. In the 2000 census, 38% of people had a high school diploma, 28% had some college, 7.8% had a bachelor’s degree and 3.6% had a Master’s. That leaves 22% of adults in the county that don’t have a high school education *NOTE: 2010 census figures report 87.7% of adults have a high school diploma or higher up from 77% reported in 2000. These are things you have to consider in social work. When giving out information, we make sure to give it out at a 6th grade reading level.

13% of teen births in Fulton County are from kids under the age of 15. Fulton & Mason counties also have the highest rate of cancer in the state.

Part 4 – Child Abuse in Fulton County (13 min – 17 min)

Why is Fulton County higher than average in the state concerning Fulton County? Karen took us through some DCFS statistics regarding reports of child abuse in the county. Reports are made by mandated reporters, someone who is in a protective role of children or other at-risk populations.  Only firsthand accounts can be taken on the DCFS hotline (800-25-Abuse is the number to the hotline). Some funding issues impacted reports of abuse in 2011, but reports of abuse have steadily increased in recents year.  There is a correlation between child abuse and unemployment.   

Karen explained the difference between indicated cases of child abuse and reported as actual cases of child abuse. Indicated means that there was enough information to charge a parent or caregiver with abuse or neglect. ⅓ of actual phone calls made to the hotline were classified as indicated. To see the actual report Karen walked us through, visit the DCFS Annual report by clicking this link. These are the most recent statistics in our state (reports are always 2 years behind).

Part 5 – Personal viewpoints on Spanking (17:10 min – 18:10)

Karen shared that she thinks spanking is appropriate in the right time and place. However, she emphasized that the more emotional you are, the more you should step back from your child (don’t discipline out of anger). You could hurt them and not realize you hurt them. Nevertheless, Karen recognizes that there is an ongoing debate over the practice of spanking. She even shared that her coworkers don’t even see eye to eye on this subject.

Part 6 – Impact of Technology (18:10 – 25:45)

Karen shared her views on how she sees technology negatively impacting behaviors throughout our society.  Our desire for instant gratification is demonstrated by our frustrations when drive thru times last longer than we like.  In her experience with hospice, she saw how positive facetiming, for instance, was for connecting people. She related a story of a couple she is counseling and how technology acts like a 3rd person disrupting the relationship.

She sees the addiction to tablets as very concerning, pulling young people away from making necessary connections. She likes to use coloring in her therapy because something inside children comes out on paper.

Karen also shared how technology has been used to connect people with psychiatrists and other specialized doctors who aren’t likely to be in our area. This actually complicated one experience she had working with a schizophrenic patient who heard voices in his television. She wondered how he was supposed to receive therapy from a psychiatrist who was talking to him in therapy?

Part 7 – DSM-V & Final Questions (25:45 min – 28:00)

Karen ended her talk by sharing with us information about what she calls the “therapists bible,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. The book is about 900 pages long. To be diagnosed with a disorder, you have to meet 5 of the described symptoms.


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